Brick ovens are generally heated with dry fagots or small branches, or with light split wood. For baking bread, the oven-wood must be heavier than for pies. A heap of wood should be placed in the centre of the oven on the brick floor, and then set on fire. While the wood is burning, the door of the oven must be left open. When the wood is all burnt down, and reduced to a mass of small red coals, the oven will be very hot. Then shovel out all the coals and sweep the oven floor with a broom, till it is perfectly clean, and entirely free from ashes. Try the heat within. For baking bread, the floor of the oven should look red; and a little flour thrown in should burn brown immediately. If you can hold your hand within the mouth of the oven as long as you can distinctly count twenty, the heat is about right. Pies, puddings, etc, require less heat. When a brick oven is used, a peel, or large broad-bladed, long-handled wooden shovel is necessary for putting in the bread, pies, etc, placing them on the broad or shovel-end of the peel, and then depositing them on the oven floor. Then close up the door of the oven, and leave the things to bake. When done, slip the peel beneath them, and hand them out on it.
To bake in an iron Dutch oven, (a large deep, cast-iron pan, with a handle, a close-fitting lid, and standing on three or four feet,) you must first stand the lid upright before a clear fire to heat the inside; and it will be best if the oven itself is also stood up before the fire for the same purpose. This should be done while the article to be baked is preparing, that it may be put in as soon as it is ready. The oven may be suspended to the crane, and hung over the fire, or it may be set on a bed of hot wood-coais in the corner of the hearth. As soon as the loaf or pie is in, put on the lid of the oven, and cover it all over with hot coals, replenishing it with more live coals as the baking proceeds. If you find it too hot on the top, deaden it with ashes. If the oven stands on the hearth, keep up the heat at the bottom, by additional live coals placed beneath it. Whether the oven is hung over the fire, or stood on the hearth, there must always be hot coals all over the lid, the hottest near the edge.
To bake on a griddle, you may either hang it over the fire, or set it over hot coals on the hearth. Most griddles have feet. The fire must be quite clear and bright, and free from smoke, or the cakes will be blackened, and have a disagreeable taste. The griddle must be perfectly clean; and while you are baking, it will require frequent scraping, with a broad knife. If it is well scraped after every cake is taken off, it will not want greasing, as there will be no stickiness. Otherwise, some butter tied up in a clean rag and laid on a saucer, must be kept at hand all the time, to rub over the griddle between the baking of each cake; for butter, lard, or nice beef or veal-dripping may be substituted, but it will not be so fine. Never grease with mutton-fat, as it will communicate the taste of tallow. A bit of the fat of fresh pork may do, (stuck on a fork,) but salt pork will give the outside of the cakes a disagreeable saltness, and therefore should not be used.
A griddle may be placed in the oven of a hot stove. Some close stoves have a hole in the top with a flat lid or cover, which lid can be used as a griddle.
The tin-reflecting-ovens (with shelves for the pies and cakes) that are used for baking in the summer, and that, having a furnace beneath, and a chimney-pipe, can be set out of doors, so that the kitchen may not be kept hot, are very good for things that will bake soon, and that do rot require what is called a strong, solid heat. But they are not effective unless the inside is kept very bright; otherwise it will not reflect the heat. These tin ovens should (as well as tin roasters) be cleaned thoroughly and scoured bright with sand every time they are used.
The art of baking with anthracite, (or any other mineral coal,) can only be acquired by practice. The above hints on baking, refer exclusively to wood fires.
When a charcoal furnace is used for baking, stewing, or any sort of cooking, it should either be set out in the open air, or the door of the kitchen must be kept open all the time. The vapour of charcoal in a close room is so deleterious as to cause death.